Stabenow says Farm Bill process will address southern concerns

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012- Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she continues to work with southern commodity interests to develop workable programs for rice and peanuts in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 during a media teleconference today. Noting that “we talk daily,” she said the Senate Agriculture Committee leadership “continues to have conversations with rice and peanuts friends to find how we can address their issues.”

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“I appreciate their concerns and I know that crop insurance at this point in time is not effective for them,” she said. “Whether it's done in the Senate or the conference committee, I'm confident we'll come together. “

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), one of the five opposing votes to the Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee, and other southern senators filed a series of amendments to the bill currently being debated on the Senate floor to address risk management issues for southern crops. Some amendments, included in a list of more than 200, are designed to create an “alternative counter-cyclical” program for rice and peanuts, setting a target of $534 per ton for peanuts and $13.98/cwt. for long and medium grain rice. Another amendment would modify the loss trigger under the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and one would cap the amount of funds paid to crop insurance companies and their agents.

“I'm confident that by end of this process we will come to the middle on this,” Stabenow said, noting that a compromise might be reached in a conference committee, which occurs between both chambers if the House completes its version of the Farm Bill. 

The Senate is expected to vote to table two Farm Bill amendments on Wednesday. One, by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and others would “reform” the sugar program, and another by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would replace the federal food stamp program with a block grant program for states.

Stabenow said the process and obstacles surrounding the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 on the Senate floor are not surprising or unusual.  

“It's a very broad bill. It's not surprising that people would have a lot of ideas, but I'm confident we can get those numbers down,” she said regarding the list of more than 240 amendments. “This Farm Bill has been a very interesting process all the way through. Every step of way people have said we couldn't get this done.”

“But don't underestimate the number of folks in the Senate who care about these issues,” she added. 

Stabenow said she appreciated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) commitment to the legislation. During the first day of Senate Farm Bill debate, Reid asked for unanimous consent to consider six farm bill amendments and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, objected. Rand argued for inclusion of his amendment that would withhold aid to Pakistan until leaders free an imprisoned doctor who helped U.S. forces find Osama bin Laden. In response, Reid performed a procedural move called “filling the tree” to keep Paul's non-germane amendment from consideration.

“I appreciate that Senator Reid created a path for us. He has really been extraordinarily supportive of us,” Stabenow said. “He has to focus on procedural motions a lot more than he would like to. The majority of us want to get this done.”

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